What it is

“Policy” means laws, regulations and priorities that collectively define how national issues are addressed by society. Policy analysts and researchers do secondary research on diverse subjects relevant to current policy debates and present their findings in written and oral reports, which filter up to decision makers. Policy work is done in a wide variety of organizations such as nonprofits, think tanks, government agencies, even corporations.

Starting points

A superb starting point for social scientists is the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellowship or other similar fellowships at the state level. Humanities policy fellowships are rarer but worth looking for. Many different types of organizations employ policy analysts. Leave no stone unturned.


From an entry-level policy analyst position, one can progress in a multitude of directions, including into other types of organizations and up their respective management chains. One can even move out of policy into some other career, if desired, because policy analysis experience is very versatile.


All disciplines are valued in policy.

Personality and outlook

This occupation is more scholarly and text-centered than most, making it an appealing choice for someone who is deeply interested in ideas and their implications and who likes to approach these ideas through reading, writing and conversation. It is helpful to feel comfortable in the “backstage” role of providing information to decision-makers rather than being the decision-maker.


Pick a policy issue you care about and read about it daily. Blog, tweet and comment about it to slowly establish yourself as an informed and trustworthy public voice on that topic. Identify organizations related to your issue and conduct informational interviews with their policy analysts. Write white papers about current stories that have a policy angle and send them to your state or federal representatives. Apply for policy fellowships, internships and jobs.

Real Life Examples